So when Harvey took the mound on what would’ve been Skaggs’ 28th birthday on Saturday, he kept Skaggs’ memory alive and used him as inspiration in a solid outing in a 9-2 win over the Mariners at Angel Stadium. Harvey, making his first start since May 23 after missing nearly two months with an upper back strain, went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts in a start that would’ve excited the late Skaggs, who passed away on July 1.
"You go out there and kind of remember something that he always said -- 'Remember you’re always the Dark Knight,’" Harvey said. "Although I’m not really throwing like the Dark Knight, like I used to, he kept telling me that. When I had some rough games and got down on myself, he was always there to pick me up. That was something I definitely took out there with me today. When I started getting in my own way, I said, ‘Remember who you are and just try to get the guy out and execute each part.’ He helped me through it."
Harvey worked to improve his velocity while on his rehab assignment and it was slightly better against Seattle, as his fastball averaged 92.3 mph and maxed out at 93.7 mph. In his last start with the Angels, his fastball averaged 91.9 mph and topped out at 93.1 mph.
"I think it's in there," Harvey said. "It's just, the first start back you're not going to necessarily let it go as much as you want or whatnot. But I'm very optimistic that it's in there."
Harvey was helped by homers from both Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout, as Calhoun connected on his 20th homer in the second while Trout smacked his 30th blast in the third. Calhoun reached 20 swats for the first time since 2015 with his eighth blast off a lefty and became just the third Angels right fielder to record multiple 20-homer seasons, joining Tim Salmon and Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.
"He’s been outstanding," Ausmus said of Calhoun. "He’s hit a lot of homers against lefties. From a power perspective, a slugging perspective, he’s had an outstanding season."
Trout joined even more exclusive company with his homer, as it took him only 93 team games to reach the 30-homer plateau, breaking his previous record of 98 team games in 2015. Trout has been on fire, hitting eight homers over his last seven games along with 18 RBIs. His 30 blasts lead the American League and he trails only the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Brewers’ Christian Yelich, who both have 31 homers.
"I think the way he plays the game speaks for itself," Ausmus said. "He’s carried some weight on his shoulders these last two weeks. He’s done it admirably."
Harvey, who entered with a 7.50 ERA in 10 starts, got through five scoreless frames on 81 pitches and went back out for the sixth with the Angels up by six runs. He surrendered a leadoff triple to Mallex Smith, who scored on a sacrifice fly, and was removed after giving up a two-out single to Daniel Vogelbach on his 93rd pitch. But it was still a solid showing from Harvey, who hadn't gone more than five innings since April 28, when he gave up one run over seven innings against the Royals.
Harvey registered eight swings and misses with his new mechanics, including three with his slider and three with his curveball. The Mariners had an average exit velocity of 86 mph against him, which was a marked improvement. Opposing hitters had an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph against him coming in, which ranked in the bottom six percent in the league. In his previous start, the Twins knocked him around for four homers and an average exit velocity of 96.8 mph.
“More than anything, he did a good job using all his pitches,” Ausmus said. “At times, I think he overthrew the breaking balls. He settled in a little more as he got deeper in the game. He mixed it very well.”
The Angels received some insurance runs in the seventh with Albert Pujols crushing a three-run blast to left for his 14th homer of the year and his first since June 22 in St. Louis. It helped the Angels outscore the Mariners by a 22-2 margin in the first two games out of the All-Star break.
“It’s been a good start for us for the second half,” Harvey said. “We just want to keep it going and keep that energy going and do it for our buddy over here [Skaggs], try and finish the second half as strong as we can.”